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What Would Happen to Adventist Schools if We All Tithed?


Six years ago, I was asked to give a parenting seminar to young parents in our church in Massachusetts. I started looking for information in published psychological literature, in library books, and the internet. I could not find information that I could use and have assurance that I had helped my audience. Two weeks before the seminar, I thought to myself, “How about the Spirit of Prophecy books like Adventist Home and Child Guidance?” I started reading these two books again. All I needed was there. After presenting some selected quotations from these books, every parent wanted them. Thankfully, I had brought copies for them.

Seventh-day Adventists are blessed with the inspired messages of the Spirit of Prophecy by Ellen G. White, but we probably do not value them enough. We have powerful education and health messages given to us to change our community. Answers to problems the world is struggling with are in these inspired books, which, of course, lead us back to the Word of God.

Many teachers and school administrators, especially in public schools, believe that the problems they face in their careers can be addressed if children are taught moral values at home that are stated in Adventist Home.

“In His wisdom the Lord has decreed that the family shall be the greatest of all educational agencies…. To the lack of right home training may be traced the larger share of the disease and misery and crime that curse humanity.”Adventist Home, pp 182, 183.

The Seventh-day Adventist message can make a great impact on the community through our school system. Yet, our schools have been closing at an alarming rate because of low enrollment and lack of financial resources, missing the opportunity to change the world with a message of hope and wholeness. The vehicle of our church mission in the land of many opportunities is losing steam.

In his book Giving It All Away . . . and Getting It All Back Again, David Green compares his family business, Hobby Lobby, to a fruitful tree which, taken good care of by cultivating the soil around it, giving it adequate water, and spraying it as needed, yields wonderful fruit. Adventist educational institutions from elementary to colleges/universities are fruitful trees. Many of us have been the product of these wonderful trees. For some reasons, in the last 30 years, we neglected to cultivate the soil around them, to provide adequate water, and spraying them when needed. The result is that they are struggling. Some of us are crying out loudly “Let them go.”  This would mean let the mission, the vision of Adventist education in that community, die. Can we afford it?

What would happen to our schools if we all tithed? A case study of Atlantic Union Conference

Mike Holmes (March 2016) wrote in Relevant Magazine on the topic, “What Would Happen if the Church Tithed?”  He pointed out that only 5% of U.S. Christians tithe, with 80% only giving 2% of their income. If we all tithed (10%), Christians could do more:

  • relieve global hunger, starvation, and death from preventable diseases in five years
  • eliminate illiteracy in five years
  • solve the world’s water and sanitation issues
  • fully fund all annual overseas mission work
  • additionally, leave a lot of money left over for additional ministry expansion.

Dave Ramsey, in one of his Financial Peace University classes, also says that if all evangelical Christians faithfully tithed, the Christian community can provide community services better than what the government does.

This is what would happen to Adventist schools in the Atlantic Union Conference if all church members tithe:

In 2016, tithes of $102,259,179 were received from the membership of 120,475. If we all tithed 10%, and assuming 25% of church members are not in the labor force, Atlantic Union Conference could receive $299,259,9001.  This computation is based on the average income per capita ($33,123) of the seven states in the Atlantic Union Conference (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) as given by income by zip code. Compared to the 2016 tithes, this is a significant increase. Guess what the church could do with this surplus?

The current policy states that 18 cents of every tithe dollar retained2 by the conference goes to education to pay a portion of teachers’ salaries and benefits and to funds for the education department. This means $11,596,191 went to support elementary schools and academies in the Union. If we all tithed, $33,936,073 could go to education. And if we could convince the policymakers (North American Division) to increase educational support to 25 cents instead of 18, the church’s educational system could receive $47,133,434. There is no doubt that schools in our union could be affordable or even free.

So why are we not giving? How did we neglect to cultivate the soil around our fruitful tree? How did we forget to water it? Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It seems our priorities have shifted to other demands of life and neglected our Christian education. The Lord has been good to me and to you. “What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” Psalm 116:12. My prayer is that we seek God first and his righteousness by returning a faithful tithe to expand his kingdom in our communities through our school system.


Notes & References:

1. Average annual income per capita excluding Bermuda is estimated at $33,123.

2. Southern New England Conference retains 63% of the tithe dollar received.


Issumael Nzamutuma is Vice President for Academic Affairs at Atlantic Union College.

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